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Nursing Practice and Nursing Education

A knowledge base reflective of the varying levels of nursing practice contributes to incorporating information to promote health, prevent disease, restore health, and promote adaptation across the lifespan. Nursing demands the ability to adapt to a changing environment in assessing, analyzing, planning, implementing, and evaluating nursing care.

Continued learning and application of facts and principles are necessary for effective clinical judgment in patient care settings. As providers of health services, nurses should be self-directive, creative, critical thinkers who strive for lifelong learning, regardless of their level of practice.

Within nursing, there are levels of practice within varying settings which require different educational preparation. Educational preparation within each level of practice should build on previous knowledge to facilitate career mobility.

The NAU Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) program prepares students to serve clients with complex care needs, which require judgment, independent decision making within the professional nurse role, and collaborative decision making. The National League for Nursing (NLN) publication Outcomes and Competencies for Graduates of Practical/Vocational, Diploma, Associate Degree, Baccalaureate, Master’s, Practice Doctorate, and Research Doctorate Programs in Nursing (National League for Nursing, 2010) provides guidelines for associate degree nursing education and practice.

The NAU Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) curriculum was designed to provide a broad base of principles from science and liberal arts including additional specialized courses in leadership, healthcare delivery systems, community and public health nursing, health promotion, nursing research, and evidence-based practice. To ensure the program quality and integrity, the BSN program follows the standards set out in the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) Essentials of Baccalaureate Education for Professional Nursing Practice (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2008). The baccalaureate graduate enters the nursing profession as a nurse generalist with a strong foundation for developing specialized clinical practice and other advanced practice roles. The BSN graduates are prepared to function effectively in ambiguous, unpredictable, and complex environments; demonstrate critical thinking and flexibility; translate, integrate, and apply knowledge to enhance patient care quality and safety. The program graduates possess the skills and credentials necessary to pursue graduate education.

The NAU Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program with an emphasis in Education was developed to prepare future educators for leadership in nursing education in a variety of settings. The MSN program utilizes the Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2011) to provide structure for the curriculum content. The program integrates theories specific to adult learning, curriculum design, and evaluation of courses and programs, critical thinking and instructional design, and teaching strategies. This program provides students focused learning on how to teach online and use technology to teach nursing in innovative ways. The program graduates possess the skills and credentials necessary to work as nursing educators in all types of nursing programs. The MSN graduates are prepared to face challenges of today’s complex academic and healthcare environments, assume leadership roles in staff development, and participate in innovative programs in health education within a global environment.

The model above represents the organizing structure of the NAU SON. The model illustrates the emphasis on lifelong learning throughout all programs in a culturally congruent context for all populations. Students enter the SON at varying points in their careers (pre-licensure ASN, BSN, online RN to BSN and/or MSN). Although students enter Benner’s (1984, 2000, 2001) continuum at different starting points (as a result of additional knowledge and experience), they continually move toward higher levels of competence. The implication for teaching and learning is emphasized by the constructs of caring, experiential, clinical judgment, and holistic health/illness/death.